If the poor people in our society can have access to high quality education, the fight against poverty will be easier. Many naturally intelligent kids from poor families do not go very far in life because they don’t go to good schools. This creates a vicious circle of poverty.
It is against this background that Ganet’s Adventure School was established by Getrude Banda in Mkondezi village, 5km west of Nkhata Bay, Malawi in 2004.
Currently the school has an enrolment of around 100 pupils aged between 4 and 16. Lessons are taught in English and Chichewa, and cover a wide curriculum including Maths, Science, French, Music and Physical Education.
The school, however, did not have permanent classrooms. As a result, it was closed down by the Malawian education ministry along with several hundreds of other schools in December 2009.
Since then, Steve McInerny, who is one of the school’s trustees and the driver behind the school’s presence in the social media, has been busy coordinating fund-raising from the UK.
In Malawi, the school’s founder and director, Gertrude Banda, has overseen the building of a block of 2 classrooms, an office and new toilets. The classrooms are now complete and the school is hoping to receive permission to reopen any day now.
Steve’s connection with the school dates back to 2005 when he volunteered at the school, during a cycling trip from Cairo to Cape Town. Since then, he has helped to support the school from the UK, where he is working as a graphic designer in London.
I have been in touch with Steve for the past few weeks. He has given me a detailed account on how he helps the school to link up with donors and well-wishers. He makes the following points:
- Cheaper and widely available internet access: Back in 2005, the nearest internet access was in Mzuzu, around 50km away. Now there are 2 internet cafés 4km away in Nkhata Bay, and while internet access can be unreliable, this is hugely useful for Gertrude when she sends out updates on the school.
- Cheap international phone calls from the UK to Malawi: These prices have come down massively, from over £1 per minute 14 years ago to 8p per minute now, meaning it has become much cheaper and easier to talk with Getrude from UK and other parts of the world.
- Groups and profiles for the school on social media sites: With only have a limited amount of spare time available to support the school, Steve has created groups and profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Myspace which have enabled the school to keep their two hundred or so followers updated quite easily and with no technical knowledge. A few years ago, this would have meant producing a printed newsletter, which is expensive and time consuming.
- School website: With a little more technical knowledge, plus open source WordPress software and free hosting kindly provided by LCN.com, they have been able to set up a website at no cost, which forms the hub of their online presence. They have created a simple online shop on the site, again free to set up, through paypal’s shopping cart feature, through which they sell Christmas cards through each year.
- Easy fundraising: Fundraising has been made easier for donors and for fundraisers with the help of virginmoneygiving.com, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Virgin. Recruitment for riders for their sponsored cycle ride this year took place almost entirely online, and at almost no cost.
I really like the objective of Ganet’s Adventure School and I will always try to help them in any way possible. I would like to see them grow and set up more schools in the rural areas across the country.
Children from poor families must have access to good education and resources so that they can realize their full potential and break the vicious circle of poverty.
As far as using communication technologies for linking up with donors and well-wishers is concerned, Ganet’s Adventure School presents a very good example for other not-for-profit organizations to emulate. But, as I usually say, check your motives!